The Jesus I Wish I Knew in High School

“Adolescence Is a Hurricane, a Tornado, an Earthquake, and a Forest Fire Coming at You All at Once.”

Todd Brewer / 8.20.21

When I reached high school, I was given the Teenage Study Bible by the church youth group. You might know the one. It had a multi-colored, paint brushed, cover that was meant to imply “cool.” The inside of this book was anything but cool. The Bible translation itself was great — no complaints there! — but this “guide” was a pretty heavy dose of law, full of topics adults wanted me to have the right views about. Not the best introduction to Christianity, let alone Jesus. I came to know him eventually, but still. Which is part of why I’m thrilled that Mbird contributors Charlotte Getz and Cameron Cole have put together a book for teenagers (and interested adults): The Jesus I Wish I Knew in High School, now available for pre-order! With 30 contributors (including David Zahl and Sam Bush), this is the book I wish I had been given all those years ago.

To give you a bit of a preview, below is the book’s introduction. Click here to pre-order your copy, coming this September.

Have you ever heard an adult say, “Just wait until you get into the real world” or “You think this is bad? Just wait until you’re an adult”? Even if they don’t say it out loud, you have probably noticed that it’s easy for some adults to mini­mize the struggles of teenagers, and act as if “real problems” only begin when you hit the “real world.” Too often we adults can be guilty of looking back at our lives through rose-colored glasses—only remembering the happy times from the past and forgetting the hard times.

Let us tell you the truth. If any adult sits down and does a sensible analysis of their entire life, they will agree that adoles­cence is universally the most difficult phase. When we ask other adults to really think about their teenage years, we often hear: “Man, being a teenager is brutal. That was the hardest time of my life. I can’t imagine how hard it must be now.”

As a teenager, you are starting to carry many of the expec­tations of adulthood, but without many of the benefits. You are expected to take responsibility for your grades, schedules, jobs, and applications like an adult, but you only receive limited free­doms in return.

Meanwhile, you are experiencing dozens of new and com­plicated challenges all at once. Your body is changing rapidly in ways that make you feel uncomfortable and insecure. You inch closer and closer to leaving home and are expected to make yourself marketable and attractive to potential employers or colleges. You gain the right to drive. You have more access to technology. Social groups and friendships change and evolve. You might have new financial responsibilities and obligations.

Adolescence is a hurricane, a tornado, an earthquake, and a forest fire coming at you all at once. As a result, many teenagers experience anxiety, stress, despair, and loneliness.

We get it. We remember.

Now, don’t get us wrong. Being a teenager isn’t all bad. There are games, parties, proms, pep rallies, and concerts. There can be great friendships, cool adventures, new learning experiences, and gratifying accomplishments. Being a teenager can be a thrill and a blast as well. The challenges, though, can be overwhelming.

We Want You to Know Two Things

The thirty volunteer authors of this book know two things, and we want you to take these two things to heart. First, we know that being a teenager is hard. Perhaps the hardest thing about it is that amidst the struggle, you feel as if other people in your life do not understand the gravity of the challenges and intensity of the difficulties you face. Part of the loneliness of adolescence is feeling constantly misunderstood and sensing that nobody takes your problems seriously.

One of the purposes of this book is for a group of Christians to affirm, “We hear you. We understand. We get the difficulty of what you are facing.” That is why much of this book focuses on the authors sharing their own fears, failures, and struggles during their teenage years. We expect that as you read, you’ll laugh, relate, and grow.

The authors range in age from twenty-three to seventy, but the fears, desperation, self-loathing, insecurity, embarrassment, conflict, and heartbreak are still very fresh to all of us. We hope that as you read, you will feel valued and understood. We want you to know that we take your struggles seriously.

The second and most important thing is that we want this book to point you to Jesus. When you know Jesus, you know what it’s like to be perfectly loved, because Jesus loves you so much that he died for you. You know what it’s like to have hope for the future, because you’re confident that God has a plan for your life. You know what it’s like to feel grace and mercy when you mess up big time, because forgiveness flows out of Jesus. And you know what it’s like to have joy, because relationship with Christ is the source of all joy.

You cannot avoid pain and challenges in life. Those come with the territory. With Christ, however, you can walk through those challenges with greater hope and freedom.

What’s in This Book

The chapters are short and can be read within ten minutes. Each chapter has three sections. In the first section, the author shares a difficult experience they encountered in high school. The second section, The Jesus I Wish I Knew, contains a reflec­tion from Scripture. The author considers how knowing Jesus and the gospel could have impacted his or her experience. In the final section, The Jesus I Want You to Know, the author speaks directly to you. Imagine they are sitting right beside you, shar­ing their heart. At the end of each chapter you will find optional questions for further reflection.

We want you to be filled with hope, peace, joy, and free­dom. We want you to have Christ at the very center of your life, because he is the only place where we find true, abundant life.

From the Editors,

Cameron and Charlotte